By Diana Chandler
ANNAPOLIS (Md.) — Area Southern Baptists are in shock, mourning and offering aid after a mass shooter killed five Annapolis, Md., newspaper employees in the town where friendships easily overlap, pastors told Baptist Press.
Annapolis is a small town of about 50,000 people, and everybody is very well connected to just about all five of the victims,” said Donnie Reynolds, senior pastor of Centerpoint Church, a third mile from the Capital Gazette newspaper where the victims were killed while working.
“You know these people. Everyone has had interaction with them … so it’s a very personal tragedy…. Everybody is in shock.”
Many pastors of various denominations have offered assistance as needed, Reynolds said, whether financial, chaplaincy or other needs. A second ecumenical candlelight vigil will be held at 8 p.m. today near the crime scene, he said, following an initial vigil last night.
“I was present last night (June 28) for about three hours outside of the scene,” Reynolds said. “We let a couple of the Capital Gazette staff people know we were there to help in any way…. I don’t think any of the practical stuff that’s going to need to be done is going to happen … until the next few weeks.”
Reynolds has invited government leaders to attend Sunday services to speak to members, and will combine Centerpoint’s three services to accommodate officials.
“Everyone just kind of loses their title at this point,” Reynolds said, “and we become friends.”
The alleged shooter, 38-year-old Jarrod Warren Ramos, walked into the Capital Gazette shortly after 2:30 p.m. Thursday (June 28) and began firing a long-arm shotgun, killing five and injuring two others. Police arrived within 30 seconds, NBC News reported, and arrested Ramos without gunfire when they found him hiding under a desk. Ramos is charged with first-degree murder, and is accused of using smoke grenades in the attack.
Weems Creek Baptist Church, a mile away from the shooting has offered assistance to law enforcement officials, many of whom are members of the congregation, associate pastor Christian Nuckles told BP.
“Obviously there’s quite a bit of shock … in trying to process what’s going on,” Nuckles said. “We hear about shootings … but when it happens five minutes from where you work and worship, it’s a very different experience all together.
“We’re just continuing to fall back and lean back into the hope we have in Christ, not just for a better world now,” Nuckles said, “but the better world to come.”
Weems Creek Baptist has offered assistance to Annapolis police, Nuckles said, “in any way we can. We have policemen in our church, so we’re just trying to make ourselves available.” Many members will attend tonight’s candlelight vigil, he said.
David Hemphill, executive board president of the Arundel Baptist Network that serves Annapolis and Arundel County, said no pastors have notified him of the gunshot victims being members of their congregations. But Hemphill, who serves as discipleship pastor of Riva Trace Baptist Church in Davidsonville, said such events still affect congregations.
“We were in the middle of Vacation Bible School when it happened, and we were considering whether we needed to lock the place down,” he said, “but we figured we were so far away we didn’t need to do that.
“And then it ended so quickly,” he said. “We weren’t even finished deciding what action we needed to take when we found they had somebody in custody.”
President Trump offered condolences while attending a tax event at the White House hours after the shooting, according to NBC News.
“This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief,” NBC quoted Trump. “Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.”
The dead were identified as John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters and Gerald Fischman.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.